This is always the hardest post of the year for me. And this has been an especially hard year for me. I read A LOT of great crime fiction. Throughout the year I labeled 25 books (out of 102) that I wanted to consider for this honor, plus the two I carried over from last year - I read them last year but they were 2010 publications. I decided to include 12 in my favorites list, and (drum roll) these are my favorite reads of 2010.
- THEY'RE WATCHING by Gregg Hurwitz - I simply can't overstate how much I like Hurwitz's writing. This was one of the books I carried over from last year, and for me to remember how much it affected me over 12 months later is a testament to the caliber Hurwitz works at.
- THE FIRST RULE by Robert Crais - As I said in my review, I left a piece of my soul with Joe Pike in this book. Written as only Crais can do it.
- PRINT THE LEGEND by Craig McDonald - Why I don't hear McDonald's name mentioned more often is one of the great wonders of this world. PRINT THE LEGEND is extraordinary. It's unique, masterfully blending fact with fiction. McDonald refused to be confined by any conventions. He's paving his own road, and I'm gladly traveling along enjoying the fruits of his labors.
- CEMETERY ROAD by Gar Anthony Haywood - One of my great discoveries of 2010. Haywood is an artist. He paints pictures with his words. We don't need 3-D movies when we have Gar Anthony Haywood's in our world. Amazing characters, multi-leveled conflicts, a distinct sense of place. I may have to start a fan club for this man.
- THE QUEEN OF PATPONG by Timothy Hallinan - the books in Hallinan's Poke Rafferty series consistently end up on my favorites list. And I truly believe each book has been better than the one before it. I don't know how he'll top THE QUEEN OF PATPONG, but I'm not betting against him. The relationships are always the strongest draw for me as a reader, but Hallinan creates an astonishing setting in his books, develops wonderful humor and the plots are top-notch. This is consistently a series I'm recommending to others.
- INNOCENT MONSTER by Reed Farrel Coleman - this book, simply put, blew me away. It's the essence of paradox: beauty created from atrocious ugliness. And no, I'm not referring to Coleman, I'm referring to the ugliness that people can inflict on each other. Moe Prager never fails to tug at my soul. This is truly the best of this series to date. Stunning!
- THE LOCK ARTIST by Steve Hamilton - HOLY CRAP! This is the book I have recommended to more people this year than any other. There are STILL times when I feel like my heart is aching from this book and I read it in March. I did not want this book to end. It is a unique plot with universal themes. The characters are unparalleled. There was not one word in this book I thought Hamilton should change. PHENOMENAL.
- THE MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH by Charlie Huston - Another author I experienced for the first time this year. Huston gives his character distinct voice. He has a unique sense of humor, but boy does it work. His dialogue is pitch perfect and his characters jump off the pages. This is a re-readable book.
- A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS by R.J. Ellory - After listening to this book on audio and simultaneously reading CANDLEMOTH, I decided to become an evangelist for Ellory. There is poetic beauty in every book he writes but the power that emanated from A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS was truly astonishing. If I wasn't seated while experiencing this book, it would have brought me to my knees. Please, regardless of what kind of crime fiction you read, do not miss this book. You simply will not be the same person when you finish.
- THINK OF A NUMBER by John Verdon - one of two debut novels on my list this year. This book really challenged me and I loved the complexity of the puzzling plot. The dynamics of the relationships between characters added to the depth of the novel. Excellent debut and I'm definitely looking forward to more from Verdon.
- 212 by Alafair Burke - I have yet to read a writer who creates the strong, yet realistic, female protagonist better than Alafair Burke. Her Ellie Hatcher series grows better with each book, which says quite a lot considering I fell in LOVE with DEAD CONNECTION, the first in the series. I love experiencing Ellie's New York City, Burke's humor and the interaction of all the characters. This is a series I look forward to with each new book and Burke hasn't let me down yet.
- THE DAMAGE DONE by Hilary Davidson - the other debut novel to make my list this year. I was looking forward to the release of this book and it was better than I anticipated. The twists in the plot were expertly constructed. The view of New York City, distinct and fresh. And Lily's best friend Jesse has earned a spot on my list of favorite characters.
I know this is cheating a little but there were three books that were the last to be eliminated from the list. I let go of them with tears in my eyes, so I at least want to mention them. Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley, Trigger City by Sean Chercover and The Amateurs by Marcus Sakey. These three books are so deserving of recognition; beautiful works of the genre; and ones that kept me riveted to the end. So, I guess we could say they get the honorable mentions? Well, they get my recommendations regularly, so if you're making a list, add those to it!
I have a few more fun little wrap up posts for the rest of the week. If you're not busy, stop by and say "hey." Let me know in the comments what your favorite reads were this year. And most importantly, happy reading!